Do What Works, Not What Feels Good
By T. Perry Bowers
I’m always seeking the highest efficiency I can achieve.
Even in little things, I’m always looking for the shortest route from point A to point B. Sometimes this means doing the hardest thing first. But as humans we often take the long route, avoiding the harder things (which just makes life harder in the long run). For example, what do you do when washing dishes and you have a large pan to wash? I used to wash it last and stack it on top of the dishes that were already clean and dry in the drying rack, avoiding having to put the dishes in the drying rack away. This practice did two things that were inefficient. One, it delayed putting away the dishes, thus taking up valuable space in my mind every time I walked by the dish rack. Two, it dripped water all over the dishes that were already clean and dry, making them temporarily useless again. I don’t do that anymore.
I apply this thinking to my practice regimen as well. I usually practice for a particular show or recording session so I focus on the particular songs I’m using. When I hit a rough patch I go over it until it’s smooth. I don’t pretend I will get lucky and it will be better when I play it live. I hammer it. When I write a song, I sing a melody as I’m learning the guitar parts. I put the vocal and the guitar together so I learn it faster. It’s uncomfortable but efficient.
When I’m playing drums I always have a goal in mind. Right now I’m working on increasing my kick drum speed. Because I don’t dedicate a lot of time to practicing drums (30 minutes per day) I use most of my practice time working to achieve this goal. It means playing to a click track and gradually increasing the speed while doing more complex kick drum patterns. When I end my session, I take a mental note of the tempo and that’s where I start the next day. Drumming (and learning to play instruments) is all about tackling discomfort. To get better you have to become comfortable with discomfort.
There is an inherent discipline to people who are proficient at music — they understand the more discomfort they tackle the better they get. Musicians need to walk through gateways of awkwardness to achieve virtuosity. It’s why I love music. I walk down the hall and hear someone playing a rudimentary drum pattern very slowly. I can’t help but smile because I appreciate the willingness to blast through the discomfort, even at the risk of sounding awful. Having the discipline to practice is a great gift. You are saying to yourself and the people around you that you want to make the world more beautiful and you are willing to sacrifice for it. I love that.
You can apply the same discipline to the business of music. Having a band with an online presence is not enough. You need to be willing to talk to people, to make deals, set up tours and book local gigs. You need to engage your fans (and not just online). You have to create strategies that work for you now and will keep working for you in the long run.
For example, when you create an online campaign for a show or a new recording do you just post it on face book and twitter and hope it catches on? If so, you need to do more! How about making everything link back to your website and creating a contest to win a t-shirt or a CD? Or crafting a YouTube campaign where users can submit videos covering one of your songs that you get to put on your YouTube page? Can you create a video idea that could actually go viral? Maybe it’s not something you’re totally comfortable with? But get out of your comfort zone and maybe someone will pay attention.
About a year ago, I started to film short videos, “Taylor Sound Tips of the Day.” I’m not blowing up the Internet with them but I’ve got almost ten thousand views so far. When I first started recording them, it felt very uncomfortable. I didn’t know how they would be received, but I did it because my marketing guy thought it was a good idea. He was right.
Of course, I’m still doing these blogs as well. When I first started writing almost every day about five years ago, it felt uncomfortable for me. I tried to do it during the day, but I’ve found I have to get up before every one else in my family to get this writing done. So, six am it is. Every day. That is definitely out of my old comfort zone.
Putting together a marketing strategy that worked for my business wasn’t easy. I learned to edit my own site. I learned about hash tags and face book tags. I even learned how to create face book, twitter and Instagram advertising campaigns and how to youth-monetize content. I’ve had meetings, conversations, research sessions and email discourse that were all a big learning curve for me. It took a lot of brain discomfort to make all the pieces fit. I’m still learning but I’m on the road and I’m willing to feel awkward to achieve my goals.
So, if you’re comfortable and “following your bliss” stop. Do something different. Get out of bed earlier. Say something silly or provocative. Try something new. Next time you’re about to tweet, “My band is playing at so and so tonight, hope you can make it” stop. Think of something more creative to engage your fans. If you’re in your room watching Netflix, turn it off and do something for your career you’ve never done before. If you’re under twenty-five and have dreams of being a rock star now is your time. Don’t waste it feeling good. Spend it being uncomfortable.